Since we’re in the month that highlights Black History, here’s an old school hip hop track that presents a wide-ranging historical narrative of human progress with an emphasis on African heritage, which also has a Stevie Wonder connection.
Gary Byrd, a radio talk-show host on WBLS and WLIB in New York City, also a poet, author, performer, spoken word artist and lyricist.
A longtime friend and creative collaborator with Stevie Wonder, Byrd served as lyricist on Wonder’s classics “Village Ghetto Land” and “Black Man” on his milestone album “Songs in the Key of Life.
The two friends then got together again in 1983 and wrote the historical/inspirational rap song, The Crown. The song was not just written with Wonder, but also produced and released on Wonder’s Wondirection record label through Motown Records.
The Crown, running a little longer than 10 minutes, had a moderate run in the U.S. reaching #69 on the R&B Billboard charts but it made it to #6 on the UK charts and made history by making it one of the longest tracks ever to chart in the UK.
The Crown featured spoken/rapped verses by Byrd with one verse sung by Wonder. Byrd described the song at the time like this: “The idea is not that black, white or anyone is better, but that we all have our place. We’ve all made contributions – and mistakes too. Wearing the crown is reaching the top of your potential. You could be a writer or you could be a mechanic, but you can still wear the crown.”
Byrd currently writes as Imhotep Gary Byrd and has “Imhotep’s Guide To Black Events” that runs weekly in the New York Amsterdam News, one of the nation’s oldest African American newspapers.
He also does “Express Yourself” broadcasts that are now available to listeners on variety of multiple media platforms.